365.112Eagan,Edward P. et al.

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Italy ( Robbins )

No. 651

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 965, of August 20, 1926, transmitting a translation of a personal letter from the Italian Under Secretary of State to you, enclosing an Aide Memoire in reply to your representations to the Italian Government in the case of the arrest of the three Americans … at Naples on October 16, 1925.

The Department has carefully considered the position of the Italian Government as set forth in the Aide Memoire of August 14 [18], and has noted the statements made to you by Signor Grandi to the effect that notification in such cases has been customary in the past and that the police authorities at Naples have been reprimanded for their failure to make such notification to the American Consul General at Naples in this particular instance.

The Department recognizes the friendly spirit in which the Italian Government has examined the question raised by this case and feels that this attitude materially contributes to its solution. However, it feels that before it can regard this case as completely closed the principle involved, namely, the right of American citizens to communicate [Page 444] with American Consular officers upon arrest by the Italian police authorities, and the corresponding right of Italian subjects to communicate with Italian Consular officers upon arrest in this country, is sufficiently important to merit further discussion with a view to establishing a more satisfactory and more uniform practice in both countries in cases of this sort.

The Department notes that the Italian Government believes that the right under reference is not specifically provided for by treaty and that it is not established as a right by any generally accepted international usage. However, it would observe that the denial of such a right would appear seriously to curtail the practical effect of Article 9 of the Treaty of 1878,9 which provides for the recourse of Consular officers to the authorities of the respective countries in order to defend the rights and interests of their countrymen. Furthermore, it would remark that the act of holding persons under arrest incommunicado is one sufficiently unusual in this day and age as to afford proper grounds for this Government’s request for explanations and assurances as to the future.

While the Department is of the opinion that no useful purpose will be served by further pressing this particular case, nevertheless, it desires that you acquaint Signor Grandi with the attitude of this Government, as outlined above, and that you take occasion to emphasize to him the desirability of reaching a definite understanding with regard to the procedure to be followed in such similar cases as may arise in the future.

You may point out to him the advantages accruing, both to the individuals concerned and to the authorities arresting them, of having a Consular officer interpose his good offices at the earliest possible moment, which, seemingly, can only be accomplished by permitting the person or persons arrested to communicate at once, either directly or through the police authorities, with the nearest Consular officer of their Nation. In the majority of cases it is safe to assert that American nationals in Italy (and likewise Italian nationals in this country) are unfamiliar with the language of the country in which they are temporarily residing. The arresting authorities may be in a similar difficulty in their endeavor to obtain a statement of the arrested person’s side of the case. Lack of knowledge of the laws, of customs, et cetera, may often be the cause of incidents leading to an arrest. It is not believed that the Italian Government would seriously deny the advantage of having American Consular officers interpose their good offices in cases of this nature, and this Government would be glad to assure the Italian authorities of its readiness to cooperate with a view to according similar treatment to Italian nationals in the United States.

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You may say that this Government believes that in this manner many unnecessary misunderstandings and causes for diplomatic representations, together with the unfortunate publicity which so often attends cases of this sort, particularly when the individuals involved, as in this case, are of some prominence, could be avoided to the advantage of both Governments and to that of the individuals involved. It therefore hopes that the Italian Government will be disposed to take a similar view of the matter in order that there may be no recurrence of such an incident as has been caused by the circumstances of the arrest of these three Americans at Naples.10

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Joseph C. Grew
  1. Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. i, p. 977.
  2. No record of further negotiations with the Italian Government on this subject has been found in the Department files.